- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

Owner Rusty Romo and his staff have made Harry Browne's one of the best gourmet dining secrets in Annapolis.
The restaurant on State Circle is frequented by those looking for a romantic dinner or a night out with friends. And with the Maryland General Assembly back in session next week, lawmakers and lobbyists are sure to be seen at this upscale establishment.
Mr. Romo's staff goes out of its way to pamper you as we found out recently.
Oh, and does this place have atmosphere. Upon entering the street-level floor of Harry Browne's, the main dining area boasts an entire facade of small-paned windows that showcase priceless views of the State House but that's not all the property has to offer.
Just down a side alley is a recent addition, the State Circle Grill Room. Formerly a cafe, it is an intimate dining area that seats 32 guests. Grill Room fans tout the flagstone floor and exposed brick walls featuring works of longtime Chesapeake Bay photographer Marion Warren. Meals are prepared in the grill kitchen separate from the main restaurant.
If searching for even more privacy, the Wine Cellar Club, located beneath the grill room, offers a unique setting for members to enjoy with special guests or business associates before or after dinner.
Members have use of private wine storage lockers with their own key (contact restaurant for fee). The wines must be purchased from the restaurant and are available for a small percentage over their cost. Wine tastings are also held in this room. Another feature of the wine cellar is a private dining area which can seat six.
A cozy second-floor lounge has a beautiful large marble bar and mirror-topped tables that provide a relaxing setting. The lounge offers a happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. weeknights and live music weekly.
Also, a sidewalk cafe is open for lunch, brunch and dinner, weather permitting, from April through October.
Getting back to the main dining area, we were led to a quaint table nestled in a corner of the room. We were surrounded by an interior like that of the supper clubs of the 1920s and '30s. Dark woods, mirrors, etched glass and a pressed-tin ceiling graced with Zodiac globe chandeliers from the cruise ship Normandie set the mood.
Harry Browne's has a cellar full of fine vintages. We ordered a bottle of Barone Veneto Pinot Grigio ($25) that was fresh, crisp and comforting on this brisk winter night.
Other wine specials were bottles of Montevia Zinfandel 1998 ($24), Chateau Lauduc Bordeaux 2000 ($25) and Cartlidge & Browne 2000 ($25) just to name a few (Trust me. Local wine experts have nothing but praise for the top-notch wine list).
We shared an appetizer of baked oysters Annapolitan ($10). Six fresh good-sized oysters were topped with a blend of crabmeat, sweet peppers, fresh herbs and lemon and garlic. The oysters were fresh and wonderful, the flavorings superb complements. Other intriguing openers included a metropolitan salad made of jumbo shrimp, spinach and radicchio tossed with a citrus bacon dressing and topped with crispy prosciutto; and Ahi tuna garnished with sweet and spicy bok choy, crispy ginger and an Asian vinaigrette.
For the main course I ordered the sea scallops and shrimp spaghettini ($23). Jumbo shrimp and scallops were sauteed with summer tomatoes, asparagus, artichokes and pine nuts finished with an herb butter sauce. The scallops were prepared to perfection as was the light sauce and pasta. Quite delicious.
My wife ordered the rack of lamb ($27). The lamb was served over pearl onions, baby carrots and wilted greens, drizzled with a rosemary Port vinaigrette. The presentation was beautiful, but the taste was even better. The outside was crusted perfectly, while the meat inside was medium rare as requested, moist, tender and flavorful. The pearl onions and baby carrots were an especially nice touch.
Other main events included a grilled rockfish over a bed of oven-dried tomatoes with sweet corn and saffron coulis, topped with carmelized onion and spinach; a filet mignon served with seasonal vegetables, porcini demi glaze, and crispy angel hair; and a pan-seared duck breast served over a melange of petite mache, baby carrots, salsify and spring oranges and finished with truffled maple and balsamic glace.
There's no children's menu but the chef does serve pasta dishes for the young ones. Our 5-year-old daughter wanted something "from the big menu" and the chef was kind enough to serve her half of an entree-size salmon fillet ($13). She ate every bite. A taste when she wasn't looking proved it was perfectly cooked.
The dessert menu is extensive, as it features fine ports, dessert wines, cognacs and coffee drinks as well as the actual desserts. Chocolate pate was a unique choice. Dark and rich, it was served in beautiful curls accented with whipped cream and a luscious berry. Tiramisu was another great choice, a very creamy and refreshing version of the classic Italian dessert.
Harry Browne's also offers a variety of homemade ice creams and gelatos to finish off an excellent meal.

RESTAURANT: Harry Browne's, 66 State Circle, Annapolis; 410/263-4332
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday; dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday; champagne brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday; State Circle Grill Room 5:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
PRICES: Lunch $5.95 to $12.95; dinner soups, salads and appetizers $7 to $12, main courses $18 to $27; Sunday brunch buffet $12.95
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards
RESERVATIONS: Recommended
PARKING: Street and valet parking available
ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible



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